Ontario Spent 170 million to Convert a Coal Power Plant to burn Norwegian Wood Pellets

Ontario has shut down its coal power plants. One of those coal power plants was Atikokan. What OPG decided to do (because they needed dispatchable power) was to convert the plant to biomass. And that biomass was wood pellets. Not just any wood pellets. It was “Advanced Biomass”.

Advanced biomass has been treated to withstand exposure to rain, and has handling and storage properties similar to those of coal. It is still in the early stages of development, which is why OPG purchases advanced biomass fuel from Norway.

Before we get to CO2 and squandering hundreds of millions to change from one fuel you burn to anther fuel you burn …. you may ask yourself why you need to make wood pellets waterproof.

Wet biomass catches on fire. Or explodes.

Biomass fuel has a wide range of possible refuse items: pellets, chip logs, forestry, sewage sludge, methane, meat and bone, palm kernels, cereal, sawdust, bioenergy crops, or landfill gas. When a biomass fuel is stored in a pile, waiting for transport or use, the biomass can spontaneously heat through oxidation. In order for this to happen, three conditions must sync: rate of heat generation, air supply, and insulation properties of the immediate surroundings. With most biomass material, there is a high moisture content combined with air and/or bacterial fermentation – both of which can cause spontaneous combustion through oxidation.

Back to CO2. The study I have referenced before told us that wood pellets (especially those transported long distances like USA to UK) produce way more CO2 than coal. So I would assume that if you buy wood pellets from Norway, your power plant is producing more CO2 than if you had not spent 170 million and were still burning coal.



‘Green’ logic confuses me.Killing Norwegian forests and turning the wood into special waterproof pellets and then using a lot of fossil fuel to ship it to Ontario to burn in a closed down resurrected coal power plant seems crazy to me.







17 thoughts on “Ontario Spent 170 million to Convert a Coal Power Plant to burn Norwegian Wood Pellets

  1. Insanity. Just plain insanity. Do these people ever research anything before jumping in the proverbial lake?

  2. It’s not about emissions, never was.
    It’s about making your priveliged life more expensive and arduous while brainwashing you into thinking you’re doing good things “for the planet”
    It’s Earth-worship and you’re a cancer upon the planet.

  3. The mind boggles.Someone,somewhere,is making a lot of money off this brilliance, and you can bet it’s a well connected Liberal. Meanwhile, they’re ravaging hardwood forests in the SE USA to make wood pellets for power plants in England.

    And we have about a thousand years worth of coal under the Maritimes.

  4. I guess for Ontario to review what would be the best and cleanest fuel to use, they never thought about Alberta’s Natural Gas, support a Province, support Canada. This is just another typical Ontario attitude, toward Alberta’s resources, it’s OK to buy from foreign countries, Wood Pellets??, That should really help Ontario’s Carbon Footprint. Both Ontario and Quebec have no use for the Western Provinces, only to rob them of their raw resources over the last 60 years. I believe it’s time for Western Canada to separate from Confederation. Presently Canada is divided into political geographic regions. Getting less proud of saying I’M Canadian. Time for Change or an attitude change!

    1. The article is misleading. It was not OPG’s decision to shutdown the coal plants. These plants were profitable and OPG would have kept them going had the liberal government of the time not created a green power mandate that included shut them all down. After getting this direction OPG looked for any alternative posible to get some value out of these very valuable facilities. The decision to go to biomass was a logical one in Atikokan. They are surrounded by limitless forests with a forestry industry that was next to dead at the time. Going to biomass there was an oportunity to take advantage of that dead industry and revive an otherwise stranded provincial asset. In Thunder Bay the decision to use biomass from abroad is a trial. They are proving that the plant can run on the Biomass while development of a local source is underway. Before the advance biomass option was considered OPG pushed to convert to natural gas but they faced difficulty getting the approval for the gas line.

      So the decision to go to advance biomass is not criminal. What is criminal is how the liberal government bought the green vote through its coal closure, and lucrative windmills and solar contracts.

      While I agree with the idea of going green with our energy system they way it has happened in ontario was criminal.

    1. “Net Greenhouse Gas” is a con game. The should be comparing all the CO2 from the transport of the pellets and all the CO2 from the burning. But they start talking “lifecycles”etc etc.


      Canadian wood pellets would have had half the “net CO2” as Norwegian wood pellets.


  5. The only explanation is that they’re sick of being cold and truly believe that CO2 is warming the earth and coal just wasn’t doing it fast enough for them.

  6. Why not build a plant half way between Atikokan and Thunder Bay that can produce suitable wood pellets? Then they could hire Canadians to work there.

    1. “The pellets from Arbaflame are transported by non-dedicated barge from the port in Oslo to OPG through the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Great Lakes. The ocean-going ship arrives in Thunder Bay at Keefer Terminal, located just down the road from the generating station, where the fuel is then loaded onto trucks to be driven the rest of the way to the outside storage area at OPG. The pellets are shipped in bags, making for easier transport from port to station. Right now the situation is less than ideal, since the pellets are not transported on a dedicated ship, but it is hoped that the growth of a domestic market will be forthcoming. – See more at: http://www.canadianbiomassmagazine.ca/pellets/advanced-energy-5410

  7. Unbelievable that an Ontario outfit wood buy “waterproof biomass” from Norway!

    Absolutely insane. If they weren’t close to a Natural Gas pipeline – Natural Gas being so cheap and clean – at least have the decency to put Canadians to work with Canadian Biomass which is like a wood waste fuel.

    I have no issue with biomass – except ash generation and the need to frequently clean your burning equipment.

    Natural gas burns the cleanest , has low maintenance costs and is very affordable. And it’s already waterproof if you did it right!

  8. Ontario’s decision to close coal plants meant closing, or altering, plants that rarely ran, but met capacity needs for high peak demands (extreme cold, and heat). In the north this included Atikokan and Thunder Bay. Atikokan was an expensive refit ($150 million) but it burns normal biomass now instead of coal (http://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/atikokan-generating-station-operating-on-biomass-515605381.html ). The biomass can be locally sourced.
    Thunder Bay is located in a larger centre (I think 100,000+ people) and plans had periodically popped up, since 2002, to convert it to natural gas. That plan was abandoned when they found a fuel that could run with minimal refitting of the plant (I recollect about $6 million). That’s the advanced biomass, the benefit of the fuel is minimized refit cost. Beyond that, there’s a promise of manufacturing the fuel for other bases, such as waste – so it need not be sourced in Norway, nor tree-based, for ever.

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